Every frame of this film is like the exhale of a half-smoked cigarette, a haze of a memory of a dream. This is, I’m sure, what falling in love in the eighties somewhere in Northern Italy would be like. A film for every time you’ve heard music when there’s no music playing or when you’ve started sweating in the cold winter, a fog of beauty and ugliness and confusion that is sometimes painful, sometimes awkward, suffocating you with every untrained thought. Suffocating like the drag of a cheap cigarette.
“I have loved you for the last time,” plays Sufjan Stevens’ haunting track over the film’s final, devastating image, holding on the tearful face of seventeen-year-old kid caught in the middle of having to say goodbye to his first true love for the second time in the space of twenty minutes, only broken up by an equally emotional few scenes. The visual poetry of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME echoes the state of our protagonist’s mind; a warm fire blazing as he lets his true emotions known, way too late to do anything about it now, stuck “somewhere in Northern Italy,” wondering why, if Youths are the future, the present sucks so much. Wondering if all this pain and loneliness was worth it. Even with the comforting words of his father still ringing around in his head, we may start to wonder the same thing. As all of these complicated and far-too-mature thoughts start to swirl and blow around in our far-too-small minds, all of this rests on just the face of a crying young boy, unable to stop. Unable to be helped, now. That’s a lot to ask of a boy, of any youth. And as the music starts to play and the credits come up, we start to wonder, “is that really it?” Over just as soon as it started, no happy ending for us? Well, just imagine how he feels. The story does not continue, not this one. All you can do now is look back and feel and remember, and cry if you need to.
That is what falling in love would be like, I’m sure.
Written by Bryson Edward Howe